This weekend, the LGBTQ+ community and allies will host Indy Pride Festival ‘19 in Downtown Indianapolis to celebrate communities throughout the city and state. That got us thinking: What groups in the local tech ecosystem are supporting the LGBTQ+ community? While there are national organizations like Lesbians Who Tech that provide resources and connection opportunities, Indianapolis also has its own organization dedicated to supporting LGBTQ+ professionals in our tech ecosystem: Pride IN Tech.

Pride IN Tech connects dots between companies and candidates

Pride IN Tech is a networking group for LGBTQ+ professionals to make connections in the Indiana tech community. “Our hope is that by bringing people together, we can facilitate connections to increase the presence of the LGBTQ+ individuals in the Indiana tech ecosystem,” said Anna Eaglin, a principal product partner at Innovatemap and co-founder of Pride IN Tech.

The organization got its start from a confluence of insights between other tech-focused leaders. Anna attended a Ladies in SaaS event where an audience member asked Kristen Cooper, founder and CEO of The Startup Ladies and past Community Champion of the Year Mira Award winner, about how companies can find and hire diverse candidates. The responses got Anna thinking about her own bench of LGBTQ+ candidates for tech jobs.

“I know there are other LGBTQ+ people in tech; I wanted to know them, and I wanted them to know each other,” she said. “But more importantly, I wanted to create a place where companies who wanted to recruit diverse candidates could find them.”

She and co-founder Anna Saraceno hosted the first Pride IN Tech event not long after this encounter, which drew about 50 attendees, double what Anna initially expected. “It showed me that people were excited and interested in the group.”

Events offer ways for LGBQT+ individuals to get involved in tech ecosystem

At its core, Pride IN Tech seeks to create opportunity, involvement and community. Employment in the tech ecosystem is a critical component of accomplishing these goals. “Many times, when someone is looking to hire for a position, they hire from within their familiar circle. As a result, they won’t look outside of their own networks to find candidates from different backgrounds or experience,” Anna said. “This creates a hegemony within a company that can be challenging for those in the LGBTQ+ community to break, or break into. Our goal is to create new connections and networks to ensure that when positions come available, the LGBTQ+ community will have better access to these positions.”

Once hired, LGBTQ+ individuals can contribute a great deal to successful tech products and services. Anna notes that it’s been established that diverse teams can create a positive impact on business ROI, and that companies do want to build diverse teams but need help in doing so. “Without a diverse voice in the group saying, ‘Hey, did we think about X?’ there could be unintended consequences, especially towards communities who weren’t represented. Because we are builders and consumers of this technology, we believe we should be equally represented in its creation,” said Anna.

To facilitate the connection necessary to increase access to jobs, Pride IN Tech hosts two kinds of events: networking-focused events, where people can meet in an LGBTQ+ friendly environment to form professional connections, and content-focused events, hosted by companies that want to encourage conversation around topics meaningful to the LGBTQ+ community.

“There are more and more people from the LGBTQ+ community looking to get their first tech job, join a coding academy, or become an entrepreneur—and Pride IN Tech is a safe space to do it,” said Joshua Driver, founder of Indy tech company and 2017’s Mira Award Community Champion of the Year. “I’ve also noticed several allies who are founders and CEOs from our tech ecosystem at these events, and having accessibility to them is so helpful.”

Carmel-based tech companies Seven Corners and SEP recently hosted events with panelists who shared their journeys as LGBTQ+ individuals in the tech ecosystem. They delivered practical advice to the audience, like how to launch and manage an employee resource group within a company. “What’s so great about all of our events are the participants’ willingness to meet new people and ask interesting and thought-provoking questions,” Anna said.

Pride IN Tech finds ways to share message to broader communities

While the organization doesn’t have an official roster, Anna is bullish on Pride IN Tech’s reach. “Based on our event attendance, we’ve probably had over 500 people attend events from all kinds of companies in and around Indianapolis,” she said. “We have many people from tech companies, those who oversee tech in a non-tech company, educators, students, and even people who are interested in a career change into tech but want to learn more first.”

In the future, Anna and the organization have plans to continue spreading the message of Pride IN Tech to more audiences, which may include a full-day event involving speakers from outside Indiana. “I’d love to share our story outside Indy to establish our city as a leader in the broader tech and LGBTQ+ community,” she said.

For those looking to get involved with Pride IN Tech, Anna suggests attending an event to meet people; for companies, hosting a meetup is a great way to get invested in diverse communities and discuss important topics. No matter how you choose to engage, Anna says all are welcome. “Everyone is invited to join us, no matter how you identify.”

To learn more about Pride IN Tech and stay informed about upcoming events, visit the organization’s new website.